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Growing up in the “Home o’ Gomer” Sylacauga​.

Jim Zeigler



By Jim Zeigler

Sylacauga, Alabama’s own Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle) has died at 87.

People who hear that I grew up in Sylacauga sometimes ask if I knew Jim Nabors growing up. For you yutes too young to remember, Jim Nabors was a nightclub singer who then became famous as Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show and, later on his own show, Gomer Pyle, USMC. He can sing like the voice of God in a deep, operatic presentation that is just the opposite of his high-pitched Gomer Pyle voice. “Shame, shame, shame.” “Surprise, surprise, surprise.” “Judy, Judy, Judy.” “Citizen’s arayest. Citizen’s arayest.” “Well, goooooooool-lee.”

I tell them, no. Jim Nabors is 18 years older than I. He was graduating from Sylacauga High School just as I was being brought home from my birth in the Sylacauga Hospital.

It is a bit strange that I had not at least heard of Jim Nabors before I was in the tenth grade and first encountered him. My classmate and friend Angela Danelutt is a first cousin of Jim Nabors and is quite close to him – then and now. Angela’s Uncle, the late T. Hunky Danelutt, was a well-known Sylacauga politico and character. Hunky was also the uncle of Jim Nabors. Uncle Hunky.


I wish Hunky Danelutt were alive and well and still involved in Alabama gubernatorial politics. Hunky picked the winner of the governor’s race every time, far as I can remember. And he got on the winning team early. Getting on early is the best time.

The race that amazed all Sylacauga was when Hunky figured out early that Fob James was his horse in the 1978 governor’s race. Early on, people did not yet know who Fob James was and did not think he could compete with the three B’s: Baxley, Beasley and Brewer. Fob of course led the field and then won the runoff against Bill Baxley. Hunky was in again.

Somehow, I should have known, even in the pre-Andy Griffith days, about this singer from Sylacauga starring in musicals in L.A. and Vegas. Well, here is how I found out.

I was sitting in last period band as we were warming up, getting ready to start band practice. In the tenth grade, I was in my fourth year playing trumpet in the Sylacauga Aggie Half-Million-Dollar Band. Our band director was the legendary Fess Simpkins.

Unannounced, a character walked into the band room from the hallway. He caught everybody’s attention at once with his loud ski sweater, sunglasses and big smile. When he came sauntering in, student trumpeter Barry McAnally laughed, made a catcall, and said “Hollywood. Hollywood.” Barry did not know just how right he was.

Fess called the band to order and introduced the guest.

“This is Jim Nabors, who played clarinet in this band and was our drum major. He now sings in a Broadway musical (that was not exactly right), “The Music Man.” He’s going to conduct you in a song, just as he did when he was drum major here.

Jim Nabors took over. He was funny and charismatic. The other band students and I were instantly impressed and curious about this neat Sylacauga guy.

After Nabors directed us in a piece he apparently knew, Fess took back over and said:

“Now, Jim Nabors will perform a part he does in the musical, “The Music Man.”

Nabors proceeded to knock our socks off, performing “Ya’ Got Trouble” about a pool hall opening in River City. Right here in River City.

Fess wound up this most unusual band class by telling us that Jim Nabors had just landed a part on the Andy Griffith Show playing an Alabama character (is that right?) named Gomer Pyle. We should watch for him. We did.

From that day, I, along with many of my schoolmates who were present for that memorable band class, followed the skyrocketing career of Sylacauga’s own Jim Nabors.

Jim Nabors’ parents remained in Sylacauga for years after Jim became a star. While Jim Nabors’ father was still alive, and before he moved his mother to his estate on Maui, Nabors came back to Sylacauga a lot. Particular at Christmas time.

Unbeknownst to non-Sylacaugans, the town has a nice-sized and active Catholic community at St. Jude Catholic Church. Our family friends, the Joe Clinton family, operators of Dixie-Color Printing in Sylacauga, were active members of St. Jude. They invited my brother Alan Zeigler and me to go with them to midnight mass one foggy Christmas Eve. It became a yearly tradition – midnight mass with the Clintons and a party afterwards at the Clinton home on Lloyd Lane in Sylacauga, which is still the Clinton home.

One Christmas Eve at midnight mass, I heard this booming voice from the choir. In St. Jude church – and I understand in many Catholic churches – the choir is in the upper loft behind the congregation. Behind and up. I strained to look around. There was Jim Nabors in the choir. I could hear him before I could see him.

O Holy Night. It was truly a holy night as Jim Nabors sang with the choir and then did an angelic solo of “O Holy Night.” Right here in Mayberry. I mean, Sylacauga. (To be continued). __Jim Zeigler


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Americans are better off now

Bradley Byrne



Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

 Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

 Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

 We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.


No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90 percent of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

 One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

 We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

 On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

 Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

 But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That’s a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-Life Movement momentum is strong

Martha Roby



As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the privilege each year to advocate for the priorities most important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.  Among many other key issues, I have been proud to stand up and fight for a strong military and smart agriculture policy on this committee. On the reverse, I am also in a strong position fight against funding from being steered towards programs or organizations that I adamantly oppose. Recently when the Appropriations Committee approved our Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill, I had the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn.

As a member of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, I am extremely proud to report that our bill passed by the full Committee includes the strong pro-life language I have fought for year after year and implements additional policy riders to defend life. Every single one of these measures is critically important and further ensures that no taxpayer dollars can be used for abortions.

Among the key pro-life provisions included in the Labor-HHS FY19 funding bill are the Hyde Amendment, which directs that no taxpayer dollars be used to fund abortions, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans Labor-HHS funding from being used on research that harms human embryos.

In addition to these longstanding pro-life measures, our bill also includes several other important pro-life provisions that continue our efforts to assign greater protections for life under the law. These measures include the Conscience Science Protection Act, which protects the rights of health care providers that do not participate in abortion.

In addition, the bill includes language that prohibits funding for fetal tissue research obtained from abortion. This measure might sound familiar because it is a direct response to the 2015 scandal that revealed how Planned Parenthood officials were systematically altering abortion procedures to preserve babies’ organs in order to sell them to researchers for profit. Planned Parenthood’s action was sick, callous, and completely inhuman.


Finally, the bill includes language to prohibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving any available funding, including through Title X family grants. This measure works hand-in-hand with the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which also directs that Planned Parenthood is not eligible to receive Title X grant money. As I have said many, many times: Abortion is not family planning. Abortion is not health care. Organizations that offer these services should not receive taxpayer dollars that are intended for family planning.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained unapologetically pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a strong commitment to defending life at every stage. I have considered it a great privilege to have a platform with which I can serve as a voice for the voiceless.

After eight long years of coming up short pro-life victories, I am encouraged that we now have a President who supports our efforts and is willing to sign important measures into law. The pro-life movement’s momentum is strong, and I look forward to seeing it grow as we continue to impact meaningful change on behalf of the unborn. I am eager to support our Labor-HHS funding bill when it comes before the full House for a vote.

 Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Gerald Dial is a steady hand for Alabama



Alabama’s economy is growing…but it can do so much more. The key is having the right leadership in all elected positions, people who have vision.

So far, Governor Kay Ivey has shown she has what it takes to make important changes and place our state in a position to win.

Did you know agriculture and forestry together are the biggest industry in Alabama? They contribute $70 billion each year toward the economy. Nearly 9 million acres and 600,000 Alabamians are involved in this huge business that benefits us all.

I would know; I was Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries several years back. During that time, we put Alabama’s top asset at the forefront of economic development.

John McMillian, our current commissioner who is term-limited and running for Treasurer, has done a good job, and now Alabama is at another crossroads. We need the next Ag Commissioner to find new and more ways to grow our state.


Gerald Dial is just that person. He and I served together in the State Senate, and his Christian values and new ideas are exactly what Alabama needs right now. The key to making government work for the people is to have someone who can’t be bought but also knows how government works. Gerald Dial fits the bill, and I trust him explicitly.

Just recently Gerald Dial created a solution to a massive problem in our state – the opioid crisis. This pandemic is killing thousands of our citizens each year. Instead of sitting back and think it isn’t his problem, Gerald Dial petitioned the drug manufacturer, Kaleo, of naoxolene, an injection that can save someone experiencing an opioid overdose. The delivery device is called EVZIO.

The result is 1,744 FREE doses of an overdose-reversing drug to Alabama’s volunteer rescue squads to combat the opioid crisis. That $4 million donation to our rural first responders equates to nearly 2,000 lives that will be saved.

I could go on and on about Gerald Dial because he’s such a wonderful friend and effective public servant, but what I want to ask you is to support Gerald Dial in the July 17th Republican Primary Runoff for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

The powerful special interest groups in Montgomery don’t want Gerald elected, because they are scared he won’t take marching order like their preferred candidate. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need to know about Gerald Dial – the powerbrokers don’t want him, so I do!

Charles Bishop was a Republican member of the Alabama Senate. He represented District 5 from 2006 to 2010. The district covers portions of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties. He was elected as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for the term 1999 to 2003. 

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Growing up in the “Home o’ Gomer” Sylacauga​.

by Jim Zeigler Read Time: 4 min